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The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

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      14.06.2011 14:08
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      A classic novel about an old man chasing a fish

      I've gotten quite into reading classic books, recently. I've always been a person who loves reading but go through fairly long periods of reading hardly anything, before then reading five or six books in quick succession. Being in Germany and being able to do lots of English Literature classes has meant that I've had the excuse to get back into reading excessively again - something which I have enjoyed greatly. As well as reading several modern classic novels and Shakespearean plays on my classes' reading lists, I've also been occupying myself by reading a lot of other famous and highly acclaimed works for my own enjoyment. In the past month, amongst others, I have enjoyed Brave New World, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Life of Pi, but the book that I just finished reading a couple of days ago was this one: The Old Man and the Sea.

      I'd fancied reading this book for a while due to its reputation as being a classic along with the fact that my dad read it a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I, however, kept forgetting to pick it up from my dad's bookcase whenever I was at home, and thought it would be wasteful to buy a copy for myself since there was a perfectly good one at home. I started reading it when I was back at home for a few days last week, thinking that its short length would make it easy to read over the course of just a few days.

      The Old Man and the Sea is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway in the 1950s, the decade before his death aged 62 in 1961. It is a short novel, telling the story of an old fisherman in Cuba, who, despite being great in his craft for his advanced years, has not been able to catch anything in over two months. One morning he goes out alone in his fishing boat and ends up chasing a large fish further and further out to sea. The Old Man and the Sea is the story of this fisherman's time out at sea with only his thoughts, the sea and this great fish for company.

      At only 99 pages in length, this is not a long novel by any means, yet it is nevertheless a very powerful story, which does not suffer for its shortness. In a short space of time we get to know Santiago the fisherman very well and feel his pain, both physical and mental, as he stays at sea in pursuit of the giant fish. There's not a vast amount in the way of plot so character development and a likeable main character are fairly essential for the story to be enjoyable. The description of the sea and the sea creatures were beautifully written and the entire book had a wonderful atmosphere - I could almost smell the sea air. The story is slow paced without being boring and I found that I greatly enjoyed this 'short' story.

      The Old Man and the Sea is regarded as a classic and having read it, I would say that it deserves its reputation. It has undoubtedly influenced literature and art since its publication over fifty years ago, with it at times reminding me of Life of Pi in terms of style and content, suggesting that Yann Martel was one of those writers to be influenced by this book. It has also been translated to the big screen although I have not seen the film version.

      I have little more I can say about The Old Man and the Sea without going into an analysis of book, and since this is a review and not an English Literature essay, I will therefore end by saying that it is a wonderful little book that I would heartily recommend. It has inspired my enthusiasm for reading more books by Hemingway and I am now quite unhappy about the fact that I already haven't. It's available for as little as £3.66 on Amazon for the 1994 edition, which is the version that I have, and has a beautiful yet foreboding picture of the sea on the cover, although many other editions are available.

      In short, highly recommended classic work by Hemingway.

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        07.10.2010 00:01
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        Old Man Catches Fish, or does he?

        This is one of Hemingway's shortest books and also one of his best. His famously succinct, simple style is employed to great effect in this tale of man against prey as an allegory for the challenges of life. A Cuban fisherman past his prime goes out fishing on his own, after many days of no luck he catches what surely promises to be the catch of his life. What follows is gripping and moving in equal measure. The text is engaging on the level of how to catch a fish but this is a Nobel Prize for Literature winning novel. Once the fish is caught the real struggle begins. In a tale that will strike a chord with many people who have made it, only to lose it later due to forces beyond their control, what would have been the greatest achievement of this man's life may be taken away from him. Hemingway is often idolised for his unique style. However it comes across as rather dated here. The masculinity that underlines his prose is out of kilter with the modern world. In this respect it reads like a throwback to the colonial world, the white hunter seeking his prey. It is definitely possible to enjoy this book but some of his short stories, for example 'The Killers' have survived rather better, possibly as a result of there being used quite transparently as the source of the plot for many films. Overall I would recommend this book as a means to sample Hemingway's style of writing. If liked 'To Have, Or Have Not' would be a suitable follow up read.

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          27.02.2010 02:14
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          If you like literature then there is no reason not to read this.

          The Old Man and the Sea is a short story be Ernest Hemingway set over several days in the life of an aged and impoverished Cuban fisherman. This fisherman is the Old Man in the title and is only ever referred to in the story as the Old Man, in the same vein the Old Man's companion is simply known as the Boy.

          The Old Man is very down on his luck and hasn't caught a fish in 84 days. Because of this the Boy is not allowed by his parents to fish with the Old Man any longer and the Old Man relies without asking or being asked on the Boy to take care of him. The Boy dotes on him and it really is a very touching and simple story of friendship based around their love of fishing, baseball and though never spoken, one another.

          This all sets the scene over the opening few pages of what is a very short book of less than 100 pages in my recent edition. Things however become rather less placid and much more dramatic when the old man heads out to Sea alone on the 85th day. What follows over the next two thirds of the book is both a gripping tale of one man against nature itself and a very clever and well written inner monologue from the Old Man.

          Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for this piece and I can see why. This was the first Hemingway book that I ever read and one that I have loved since. You can read it in a few hours and I believe that every fan of literature should. It is a beautifully and nearly flawlessly written piece and is both deceptively simple to read and incredibly concise.

          I have heard various deeper meanings for the story debated by I prefer to think of it as just being a great piece of accessible literature.

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            15.06.2001 06:18
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            • "there are any."

            When you read this, you can see why it won the Nobel Prize for Literature. If you have previously read Hemingway novels such as 'Death in the Afternoon' and been deterred by his seemingly masculinist subject matter, do not let the idea of fishing in this novel put you off. The tale is of an aged Cuban fisherman, down on his luck and empty-pocketed. It focuses around his catch of a huge marlin and the battle to land the fish. As I said though, Hemingway is not trying to portray violent and masculine values here and this is clear when you meet the character of the Old Man: '"I would like to take the great DiMaggio fishing," the old man said. "They say his father was a fisherman. Maybe he was as poor as we are and would understand."' Incidentally the old man is never named, nor is his companion and only friend 'the boy.' This, contrary to my expectation after reading the first few pages, did not prove to be irritating in any manner but successfully conveyed a sense of anonymity with the characters. Hemingway has left the main character nameless, as his situation is so common and typical of people living in poverty. The writing is simple and no superfluous description nor content is present. This accounts for the book's length (a mere 109 pages in my edition) and it's immense readability. The images are crystal-clear due to the accuracy of the writing and it is almost possible to smell the brine and feel the sting as Hemingway writes: "Shifting the weight of the line to his left shoulder and kneeling carefully he washed his hand in the ocean and held it there, submerged, for more than a minute watching the blood trail away...." I am sure that there is a deeper meaning behind the novel, but frankly you don't necessarily need to find it to enjoy the book. I first read it when I was 10 and loved the novel, and the writing is simple enough to subm
            erge yourself in anyway. So just put aside a few hours, as that's all it takes, and read this glistening gem of a book.

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              31.10.2000 04:23

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              The Old Man of the Sea is as much about being macho as anything else. What does a really strong man do? He goes see and fights the elements..he's a fisherman! This Hemmingway novel won its author the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. It tells the tale of an old Cuban fisherman who never has much luck. The only thing he has in the world is the love of a young boy. His arch enemy is a huge marlin that pits its strength again him on a daily basis until, inevitably, the old man wins and kills it. You need to read this book a couple of times to get the feel of it as there is a lot more meaning to the story than is apparent at first!

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              23.08.2000 16:03

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              I would imagine that of all great twentieth century writers, Hemingway is the one most likely to be doomed to an unread future in the twenty-first century. The endless emphasis on masculinity, the spare, rather mannered prose, the obsession with manly pursuits like bull-fighting and fishing. The best Hemingway is a short story or piece of non-fiction (there's an account of a boxing match he wrote which embodies all of his strengths in a few pages). 'The Old Man and the Sea' is barely long enough to be considered a novel, and it's still way way too long. It's a pared-down study of man against the elements, an old cuban fisherman struggling endlessly against the sea, and against a big fish. I'll be honest, I haven't a clue what it means, but it's interminably boring and lifeless. Give me Melville's 'Mody Dick' anyday, a novel of men against the deep which is ten times as long (at least), and yet much more compelling.

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